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The Waves

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Set on the coast of England against the vivid background of the sea, The Waves introduces six characters—three men and three women—who are grappling with the death of a beloved friend, Percival. Instead of describing their outward expressions of grief, Virginia Woolf draws her characters from the inside, revealing them through their thoughts and interior soliloquies. As their understanding of nature’s trials grows, the chorus of narrative voices blends together in miraculous harmony, remarking not only on the inevitable death of individuals but on the eternal connection of everyone. The novel that most epitomizes Virginia Woolf’s theories of fiction in the working form, The Waves is an amazing book very much ahead of its time. It is a poetic dreamscape, visual, experimental, and thrilling.

297 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1931

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About the author

Virginia Woolf

1,844 books22.1k followers
(Adeline) Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929) with its famous dictum, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,982 reviews
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,046 followers
March 1, 2016
For the unprepared reader the first fifty pages can be as baffling as an unknown code. But once the code is cracked, the whole experiment has a brilliant simplicity.
Imagine this: a biography of you and your five best friends. From early childhood to death. Told not within the usual matrix of bald accountable facts, social landmarks of achievement and failure. But through a linguistic transposition of the ebb and flow, the forging and eroding, of the waves of our inner life. Those secret and unspoken moments known only to ourselves when we feel at our most isolated or connected, our most transfigured, lost or unknowable. The narrative a fluid continuum where all six of you are continually merging and separating in a fellowship and divorce of feeling. The six of you ultimately becoming one voice endeavouring to give shape to this one shared life.
So The Waves is the biography of six characters, all of whom speak for the other five as much as for themselves. But it's a new kind of biography. A biography of sensibility. A kind of archaeology excavating identity entirely from what’s buried and sacrosanct. Epiphanies, private moments of triumph and failure - or what Virginia Woolf called "moments of being".

Virginia Woolf speaks somewhere of her earliest childhood memory – of being in bed as a very young child and listening to the sound of the waves distantly breaking on the beach out in the night. She believed the experience remained at the very heart of her inner life, a kind of oracle. The native ground from where all her shoots would spring forth. Authenticity, for her, was to be found in the secret and unspoken experiences of life, her “moments of being”. All six characters in The Waves experience a similar crucible childhood moment. A haunting moment of sensibility which will subsequently act as a motif in the quest to know intimacy and achieve identity. The opening section of The Waves, a depiction of the dawning of day, calls to mind the act of creation itself. For she is questioning the origins and nature of consciousness in this novel. Except no god appears. Instead we see nature as a dispassionate encompassing force locked into its relentless merciless rhythms. The first section introduces us to the six children and their first impressions of the world around them. Baptism comes here, not in church, but when the nurse squeezes a sponge and sends rivulets of sensation down the spines of the six children. An early indication of how Woolf will concentrate on private rather than public events to build the biographies of her six characters. By the end of the first part all six are identifying themselves in relation to each other, all six are struggling with fears and insecurities, all six jarred and flailing in their attempts to achieve identity – as for example Rhoda: “Let me pull myself out of these waters. But they heap themselves on me; they sweep me between their great shoulders; I am turned; I am tumbled; I am stretched among these long lights, these long waves, these endless paths, with people pursuing, pursuing.”
Each section depicts the next phase in the lifespan of the characters. And in each section prevails the endless repetition of the sound and rhythm of the waves. Ultimately the suggestion is that it’s only through sensibility, our creative inner life, that we are able to achieve love, forge abiding worth and find the fellowship that are the principle sources of light and warmth in life.
It’s left to Bernard, the writer, to draw some sort of conclusion: “And in me too the wave rises.it swells; it arches its back. I am aware once more of a new desire, something rising beneath me like the proud horse whose rider first spurs and then pulls back. What enemy do we now perceive advancing against us, you whom I ride now, as we stand pawing this stretch of pavement? It is death. Death is the enemy. It is death against whom I ride with my spear couched and my hair flying back like a young man’s, like Percival’s, when he galloped in India. I strike spurs into my horse. Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death.”
Profile Image for Seddrah.
6 reviews13 followers
Want to read
October 17, 2007
a great recommendation from a friend. Seems like it could be life-changing, or possibly a little sad or maybe both. The hand-written inscription in the copy I found used was worth the entire purchase anyway, read it:



I'm sure you know that you've been on my mind a great deal over the last few days. I've struggled for words to capture my own grief at your mom's death, to express my appreciation for yours, and perhaps, to offer some solace by explaining to you how strong an impression she made on me during the few months that I knew her.

I haven't yet decided which of my memories of Elma will be my favorite--her stealing my blackberry pie, fingering my brand new Perry Ellis coat as a potential rug, beating the pants off me at Shanghia Rummy, or just gazing out the window at the beach. But I do know that she was a deeply loving and strong woman, who had the grace and breadth of vision to raise a lovely, creative, and infinitely diverse family; and who was able to make me feel welcome and cared for within minutes of entering her home.

Your mom's spirituality also affected me powefully. In fact it was while I was thinking over the weekend about this aspect of her personality that it occured to me to give you a copy of The Waves. The Waves is not "about" anything so much as it is a chronicle of the pain of separation, and a celebration of the spiritual unity that finally connects everyone and everything that is, irrespective of death. It's a lovely, mystical, and moving work, that I believe will comfort you more than anything which could ever come from my pen.


[and then in darker pen, it continues]

Finished first reading March 5, 1984.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
917 reviews949 followers
December 19, 2015
The Waves Playlist

Pop songs, not classical or Jazz.

The characters

Rules: One song each. Gender matching. Must express as many of the key character traits as possible. I must love it.

Bernard: Bob Dylan – To Ramona
Susan: Kate bush - Mrs. Bartolozzi
Rhoda: Throwing Muses – Fear
Neville: Anthony and the Johnsons – Crazy in Love
Jinny: Julia Holter - Gold Dust Woman
Louis: Jeff Buckley - A Satisfied Mind

[Percival: John Cage - 4'33]

The novel

4 rules here - reference to water in title or song (mist or fog counts), thematic connection over and above this to the novel, something about the feel matches the novel too, and it has to be a song I love.

Grouper – Heavy Water/I'd rather be sleeping
Joanna Newsom - Time, a symptom
Joanna Newsom - Divers
Smog - Rock bottom riser
Judee Sill - Kiss
Julie Holter - Sea calls me home
Beach house - On the sea


This is It. This is The Book. The One. The collection of carefully crafted words I hold most dear in the world.

It is for this very reason I cannot write a reasonable review, I cannot simply tell you that this is a masterpiece, that this deals with the most profound and important issues of Being in the most beautiful ways imaginable, nor can I simply say that, though I have read it many times, I still find new pearls to treasure in almost every line.

So I will take a quote, a relatively famous one, and ramble on a little about what makes it so wonderful. From this one can extrapolate the rest…

Towards the end of the novel, Bernard says the following:

"How tired I am of stories, how tired I am of phrases that come down beautifully with all their feet on the ground! Also, how I distrust neat designs of life that are drawn upon half-sheets of note-paper. I begin to long for some little language such as lovers use, broken words, inarticulate words, like the shuffling of feet on the pavement. I begin to seek some design more in accordance with those moments of humiliation and triumph that come now and then undeniably. Lying in a ditch on a stormy day, when it has been raining, then enormous clouds come marching over the sky, tattered clouds, wisps of cloud. What delights me then is the confusion, the height, the indifference and the fury. Great clouds always changing, and movement; something sulphurous and sinister, bowled up, helter-skelter; towering, trailing, broken off, lost, and I forgotten, minute, in a ditch. Of story, of design, I do not see a trace then."

This is, of course, a comment by Woolf on her art, and illuminates some of her key concerns as they relate to the confused and tattered nature of reality. But I do not wish to speak of that here. I want to talk about the music of this passage, the song of her writing.

We begin with an old Rhetorical trick: repetition. He is tired, that much is clear, and do we not feel a similar fatigue? The fall of those sentences, like an exhausted sigh raising themselves up to the exclamation point at the end. Then alliteration, that echo of anglo-saxon origin, propels us through the next, short sentence. All those hard "d"s, the rippling between "life" and "half" (deep ripples those, though I will not explore them here)…

And the alliterative magic continues, bouncing like bows on taught strings, "L"'s for longing, little, language and lovers, the repetition of "words", shuffling the sentence like those feet on the pavement.

Then, as if to prove such shattering and shuffling inevitable, a sentence which falls on its own sword, ending with its feet over its head and undeniably unstuck.

But we shall right ourselves. Pulled back by the gentle arms of another "L", and those commas, like the beats of a conductor's baton, getting us back up to speed, ready for the pounding out of those key words "confusion", "height", "indifference" and "fury". And we understand how fury can be delightful, how indifference can fill us with joyous awe.

The next sentence is, according to Microsoft Word, incorrect. It is a fragment which I should consider revising. But how can one truly speak of the fragmented without using broken and un-finished lines? Here too all our alliterative friends return – those "C"s, "L"s, "D"s and "S"s, the repetition of "ing", like light and dancing footsteps following the music they themselves create.

This is Design. This is Song. This is the tension between the beauty and craft of great prose, and the dirty, broken Truth of the World. Woolf is the Master of this tension, she walks on the thin thread tied tight between them. And when the thread broke, she drowned and the World lost too much to be easily comprehended.

Of all books in the world, of all the voices I have been lucky enough to overhear through the magic of literature, hers is the one I love most, and the one I miss most. Read her. Read all of her. Then go back and start all over again.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,113 reviews44.4k followers
April 28, 2019
The Waves is an absolute masterpiece: it’s an incredible novel that flows beautifully with torrents of majestic prose.

“I see nothing. We may sink and settle on the waves. The sea will drum in my ears. The white petals will be darkened with sea water. They will float for a moment and then sink. Rolling over the waves will shoulder me under. Everything falls in a tremendous shower, dissolving me.”


This is creative genius at its absolute finest within fiction. I felt like I was floating, awash in words, dreams and ideas. It’s a profound exploration of the human soul and I lack the words to describe it as eloquently as it deserves.

The very first chapter is an absolute feat of writing. I felt like I watching the scene from above, peering into the lives of these characters. And the constant wave imagery is perfect. It cements the emotions, complexity and intricacies of human experience in a very imaginative way. I wish I could capture the essence of it in a review, but I think this is one that really needs to be read in order to be understood.

The novel traces the development of six friends from childhood all the way through to the trappings of middle age. There are five of them and they grew up together. They finish school (bonding over how much they hate it) and break apart when they no longer have to sit in the classroom. Their friendships become more and more distant as the years pass, as the waves of the sea continue to crash, they experience the realities of growing old and the isolation that can come with it.

This is a hard book to read, some of it may wash over you, though that is the nature of stream of consciousness writing. It is governed by shifting patterns of thoughts and feelings. The voices of each section were also quite similar. In keeping this level of similarity Woolf explores identity. The voices cross over and sound alike; they merge into each other like separate facets of a greater whole. Identity is a shifting concept and can be different things in different places.

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.”

I knew there would be a Woolf novel I could love, and this is it. The language is poetical and deep. Woolf explores so much of human experience here and the way she has written it is so ridiculously clever. If anything, it’s a book about identity and how hard it can be to define it. In a way, others help to shape it as much as we do ourselves.

This, certainly, won’t be the last time I read it.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
September 5, 2021
(Book 654 From 1001 Books) - The Waves, Virginia Woolf

The Waves is a 1931 novel by Virginia Woolf.

It is considered her most experimental work, and consists of soliloquies spoken by the book's six characters: Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis.

Also important is Percival, the seventh character, though readers never hear him speak in his own voice.

The soliloquies that span the characters' lives are broken up by nine brief third-person interludes detailing a coastal scene at varying stages in a day from sunrise to sunset.

As the six characters or "voices" speak, Woolf explores concepts of individuality, self and community. Each character is distinct, yet together they compose (as Ida Klitgard has put it) a gestalt about a silent central consciousness.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «امواج (موج ها)»؛ «خیزابها»؛ ویرجینیا وولف (مهیا، صهبای دانش، افق) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه دسامبر سال 1999میلادی

عنوان: امواج؛ اثر: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: فرشاد نجفی پور؛ تهران، محیا، 1377؛ در 248ص؛ چاپ سوم 1388؛ شابک 9789645577276؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، صهبای دانش؛ 1389، شابک 9786005692129؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: موجها؛ اثر: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: مهدی غبرائی؛ تهران، افق، چاپ دوم 1386؛ در 398ص؛ چاپ سوم 1387؛ چاپ چهارم 1389؛ چاپ پنجم 1393؛ شابک 9789643692131؛

در ادبیات «بریتانیا»، دشوار می‌توان رمانی را یافت، که بیش از «موج‌ها» به شعر نزدیک باشد؛ «استیون اسپندر»، «موج‌ها» را بزرگ‌ترین دستاورد بانو «ویرجینیا وولف» می‌دانند، از رمانهای پیچیده، و دشوارخوان بانو «ویرجینیا وولف» است؛ که در سال 1931میلادی انتشار یافت؛ «موج‌ها» که با تکنیک تک‌گویی درونی نوشته شده؛ «وولف» را در اوج تجربه‌ گرایی خویش، نشان می‌دهد؛ خود روانشاد «وولف»، اثر خویشتن را یک شعر-نمایش خوانده؛ نه یک رمان؛ کتاب با طلوع آفتاب آغاز، و با غروب آن به پایان میرسد

موج‌ها را شش راوی واگویه می‌کنند؛ «برنارد»، «سوزان»، «نویل»، «جینی»، «لوئیس» و «رودا»؛ روایتشان را از خردسالی و کودکی آغاز کرده و تا بزرگسالی و سال‌های واپسین عمرشان بر دوش می‌کشند؛ «ویرجینیا وولف» در این رمان به ژرفایی دور از دسترس فرو می‌رود، و بر چیزی غلبه می‌کند که او مشکل اساسی نوشته‌ های زنان می‌داند؛ «موج‌ها» بیانِ تن و تمنا می‌شود؛ در این کتاب است که گویا «وولف» غرق رؤ��ا می‌شوند و می‌گذارند خیالشان - بی‌قید و بند - به دنیایی در ژرفای هستیِ ناآگاه ما نیز سرک بکشاند؛ خیالشان سرریز می‌کند؛ در پی برکه‌ ها، ژرفناها، تاریکناها می‌رود؛ آن‌جا که درشت‌ترین ماهیان می‌آرامند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 26/08/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 13/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,423 reviews3,376 followers
July 27, 2021
The Waves is like a song sung by the surf on a bright breezy day…
‘I see a ring,’ said Bernard, ‘hanging above me. It quivers and hangs in a loop of light.’
‘I see a slab of pale yellow,’ said Susan, ‘spreading away until it meets a purple stripe.’
‘I hear a sound,’ said Rhoda, ‘cheep, chirp; cheep chirp; going up and down.’
‘I see a globe,’ said Neville, ‘hanging down in a drop against the enormous flanks of some hill.’
‘I see a crimson tassel,’ said Jinny, ‘twisted with gold threads.’
‘I hear something stamping,’ said Louis. ‘A great beast’s foot is chained. It stamps, and stamps, and stamps.’

This is the way the world appears out of nocturnal nonexistence in the morning… This is the way consciousness dawns in a child in the beginning of life…
Six persons are telling the tale… And their lives are six waves in the ocean of mankind…
And there are intermissions in which Virginia Woolf draws parallels between the time of day and the time of life…
The sun rose. Bars of yellow and green fell on the shore, gilding the ribs of the eaten-out boat and making the sea-holly and its mailed leaves gleam blue as steel. Light almost pierced the thin swift waves as they raced fan-shaped over the beach. The girl who had shaken her head and made all the jewels, the topaz, the aquamarine, the water-coloured jewels with sparks of fire in them, dance, now bared her brows and with wide-opened eyes drove a straight pathway over the waves.

Everything in the world goes in cycles… Daybreak, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night… Birth, infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood, old age, death… Wave follows wave… As soon as a wave breaks on the beach a new wave is born somewhere in the sea.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
851 reviews5,842 followers
March 6, 2022
Easily one of my favorite books ever written. The 'waves' become a compound metaphor of sheer brilliance; we are all a harmony in the chorus of life, a part of a whole but each an individual part of beauty equally beautiful in solidarity as the whole. I wish I could write a single sentence as glorious as Woolf.
Profile Image for Guille.
756 reviews1,543 followers
July 15, 2021
Quitémonos lo fácil de encima rápidamente: diálogos interiores de seis personajes, una sola voz en personalidades dispares, prosa poética carente de acción.

Pero si quieren saber un poco más, y aunque esto sea solo la espuma de la ola, les diré que la novela se estructura en nueve secciones separadas por la sucesiva descripción de un día simbólico que transcurre a la par que la vida de estos seis personajes: lo que les marcará desde la infancia, la búsqueda de identidad, las esperanzas y los anhelos de la juventud, la madurez y la constatación del éxito o el fracaso en el camino elegido, el repaso en la vejez y las formas de afrontar el final. Seis personas que se conocen, pero no se conocen, que anhelan, quieren, envidian y lloran a Godot, el séptimo personaje, Percival, el único sin texto, representante de “todo lo que no podemos explicar, todo lo que convierte la simetría en absurdo”; lector de novelas policiacas y el que todo lo comprende, un gran maestro en el arte de vivir y el ser que les enfrentó a la muerte.
“Ni un hilo, ni una hoja de papel, media entre él y el sol, entre él y la lluvia, entre él y la luna, cuando yace desnudo, lacio, ardiente, en cama”.
Ahora lo esencial: “Las olas” es una obra de arte, un libro hermoso, de los más hermosos que he leído en mi vida, cautivador, descarnado, bello, oscuro y sugerente, tan oscuro y sugerente que el libro será algo distinto para cada uno de ustedes, más de lo que siempre es todo buen libro.

Contribuye a ello la abundancia de imágenes, de metáforas, de crípticas asociaciones, de símbolos que se van repitiendo como mantras a lo largo de la novela: un pañuelo donde encerrar las penas, una mano que se levanta y apremia, grises cenizas en un hogar apagado, cartas inacabadas, un charco que no se puede cruzar, un manzano por el que no se puede pasar, una puerta de rugoso roble a la que llamar, otras puertas que se abren y se cierran sin cesar, por dónde puede llegarnos lo que tememos, por donde no sabemos si entrará quien anhelamos…Y, por supuesto, las olas, las que marcan el paso del tiempo indiferentes a nuestros afanes, a nuestros miedos; la inestabilidad sobre la que establecemos nuestras construcciones en un no siempre alcanzable equilibrio; aquello que viene, que nos golpea o nos besa, que nos abandona; olas y olas, siempre parecidas, nunca iguales, como las vidas; olas que al retirarse dejan al descubierto nuestro ser, que a veces solo nos rozan; olas en las que algunos son capaces de dejarse llevar y contra las que otros luchan; olas que bañan las playas de las islas que en realidad somos; olas que mecen, que inundan, que atraen, que te rodean, que te acarician, que te hipnotizan, que te revuelcan…

En el primer capítulo, el dedicado a la infancia, un beso va a descubrirnos las naturalezas de los seis protagonistas, personalidades que caracterizarán sus caminos de forma invariable durante toda la vida.

Louis, acomplejado pese a la plena conciencia de sus méritos, se esconde tras un seto rogando que no lo encuentren, odiándolos por obligarle a estas extravagancias y aun así ansiando sus presencias; su éxito será el trabajo, su refugio las ensoñaciones de un pasado glorioso; alguna vez sacará un libro de poemas y leerá uno, uno es suficiente.
“Los nombres se repiten, los nombres son siempre los mismos. Son los voluntarios, son los jugadores de cricket, son los oficiales de la Historia Natural de la Sociedad. Van siempre en formación de cuatro de a fondo, marcando el paso con insignias en los gorros, saludan al mismo tiempo cuando pasan ante la figura de su general. ¡Qué mayestático es su orden, qué hermosa su obediencia! Si pudiera seguirles, si pudiera ir con ellos… Sacrificaría cuanto sé para poder hacerlo… Les contemplo con envidia… Si hubiera pertenecido a su grupo y hubiera ganado partidos, y hubiera remado en las grandes regatas, y hubiera galopado durante un día entero, ¡cantaría canciones con fuerza de trueno a medianoche! ¡Qué torrente de palabras surgiría de mi garganta!”
Jinny descubre a Louis, se arroja sobre él, lo besa. Jinny es una gaviota que se deja llevar por la ola de su belleza, que se servirá de su aspecto. Jinny no miente, no sueña, no le preocupa si la vida es esto o lo otro, quiere balancearse, ser azotada, subir y bajar, como un buque sobre las olas. Sabe que llegará el momento en el que levantará la mano y nadie acudirá, que no habrá quién se percate de que ha caído su pañuelo, que ya no habrá reflejos en los cristales de las ventanillas de un tren, sabe que al final “nada queda para guardar en relicarios” pero también sabe que no tendrá miedo.
“Habrá fiestas en deslumbrantes salas. Y un hombre se fijará en mí, y me dirá lo que a nadie ha dicho. Le gustaré más que Rhoda y Susan. Descubrirá en mí cierta cualidad, algo peculiar. Pero no estoy dispuesta a quedar vinculada a una persona tan sólo. No quiero quedar fijada, inmovilizada… Toda de oro, flotando en este rumbo, le digo a éste: «Ven». Rizándome en negro, digo a este otro: «No». Uno abandona su puesto bajo la vitrina. Se acerca. Se dirige a mí. Es el momento más excitante que he vivido en mi vida. Me estremezco. Me rizo. Me balanceo como una planta en el río, flotando hacia aquí, flotando hacia allá, pero enraizada, para que venga hacia mí. «Ven», le digo. «Ven».”
Susan ha visto como Jinny besaba a Louis y huye al bosque, a la naturaleza, con su angustia apretada en un pañuelo. Susan quiere dar y quiere recibir, ama y odia, pero a veces se siente como una hoja que es llevada por el viento, a veces desea que la plenitud de su casa, de su marido, de sus hijos, de su naturaleza se aleje de ella. A veces, odia a Jinny porque su presencia le recuerda que tiene las manos rojas y las uñas mordisqueadas y hasta el final jadeará «como un pájaro joven, insatisfecha, por algo que se me ha escapado.»
“Mis hijos me llevarán adelante… Quedaré degradada y encadenada por la bestial y hermosa pasión de la maternidad. Sin el menor escrúpulo, ayudaré a mis hijos a triunfar. Odiaré a cuantos vean sus defectos. Mentiré vilmente para favorecerlos. Y dejaré que me aíslen de ti y de ti y de ti… tendré criadas con delantales, trabajadores con horcas, una cocina a la que traerán a los cabritos enfermos para que cobren calor en un cesto, una cocina en la que colgarán jamones y brillarán las cebollas. Seré como mi madre, silenciosa, con delantal azul, recorriendo con la mirada las alacenas.”
Bernard ha visto como Susan huía, ha advertido su desdicha, la sigue, la envuelve en palabras. Bernard, con sus historias, consigue que la gente se sienta ligera y leve, liberada. Pero pronto le faltan las fuerzas, la frase se debilita, duda y calla. Su libreta está llena de frases imperfectas, de frases inacabadas. Es «como el cordón roto de una campanilla, siempre oscilando». Necesita el estímulo de los demás, sus miradas iluminándole, cambia según sea la estancia en la que se encuentra, según la compañía.
“Cuando no veo palabras retorciéndose a mi alrededor como anillos de humo, estoy en tinieblas y nada soy. Cuando estoy solo, caigo en un letargo, y me digo entristecido, mientras hago caer las cenizas por entre las barras de la parrilla, que la señora Moffat vendrá. Vendrá y lo limpiará todo.”
Neville se siente abandonado cuando Bernard le deja tras los pasos de Susan. Ama a Percival y advierte que su destino es causar repulsión a quién ama, que está condenado a producir asco, a ser un poeta. Opuesto a las convenciones, no soporta que haya dependientas de comercio. Sus risitas, su comadreo, le recuerdan su degradada naturaleza. Dedicará su vida a la perfección, a seguir la curva de la frase y acabará en paz, pero sin gloria. Llegará a gustarle ver a la gente salir en torrente del metro, mirará sin pasión.
“Poco me falta para chillar ante la cómoda satisfacción de sí mismo, y la mediocridad de este mundo que produce tratantes de caballos con adornos de coral pendientes de la cadena del reloj. Llevo en mi interior algo que los destruirá por entero. Mi risa les hará retorcerse en sus sillones, les obligará a echar a correr aullando. No: son inmortales. Triunfan.”
Rhoda permanece ajena a todo, concentrada en un cuenco donde flotan pétalos blancos, su flota navegando en el mar alzado en oleaje. Se siente fuera del mundo, con el peligro constante de caer en la nada. Tras la puerta le espera el tigre que se abalanzará sobre ella. No se concibe en su cuerpo, experimenta constantemente la indiferencia o el desprecio de los hombres mientras ella ansía columnas de mármol y lagos en el otro lado del mundo donde una golondrina moja la punta del ala.
“No tengo cara. Los demás tienen cara. Susan y Jinny tienen cara. Están aquí. Su mundo es el mundo real. Las cosas que levantan son cosas que pesan. Dicen «sí», dicen «no». Pero yo oscilo y cambio, y en menos de un segundo devengo transparente. Cuando se cruzan con una criada, la criada las mira sin reírse. Pero se ríe de mí. Ellas saben lo que han de decir, cuando alguien les habla. Se ríen de veras, se enojan de veras, en tanto que yo he de mirar primero a mi alrededor, y hacer lo que los demás hacen, cuando ya lo han hecho… Debo tergiversar y defenderme con mentiras.”

“Son tan solo hombres, tan solo mujeres.”

“Ha llegado el momento…Cerrarán los jardines.”

“¿Es que no había espada, nada con que demoler aquellas murallas, esa protección, este engendrar hijos, vivir entre cortinas, devenir de día en día más y más sujeto y entregado, entre libros y pinturas? Más hubiera valido quemar la propia vida, como Louis, en el deseo de perfección, o, como Rhoda, huir de nosotros, dejarnos atrás para ir a parar a un desierto, o elegir a uno entre millones, sólo a uno, como hizo Neville; más hubiera valido ser como Susan, y amar y odiar el calor del sol o el césped mordido por las heladas, o ser como Jinny, honestos y animales.”
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,084 reviews6,999 followers
October 5, 2022
[Edited, pictures added 10/5/22]

Almost more poetry than prose, critics have called this Woolf's greatest work and also the most “difficult” one. It’s written in dreamy paragraphs creating an atmosphere but with little plot. I struggled with it, having trouble keeping the characters separate, even trying mnemonics at one point. Then I caught on. The book follows six people from when they were tots to old age; three men, three women; one of the men dies. You have to accept that five-year old kids playing on the lawn think complex philosophical thoughts.


If I were to pick a typical paragraph, I’d say one like this:

‘Yet we scarcely breathe,’ said Neville, ‘spent as we are. We are in that passive and exhausted frame of mind when we only wish to rejoin the body of our mother from whom we have been severed, All else is distasteful, forced and fatiguing. Jinny’s yellow scarf is moth-colored in this light; Susan’s eyes are quenched. We are scarcely to be distinguished from the river. One cigarette end is the only point of emphasis among us. And sadness tinges our content, that we should have left you, torn the fabric; yielded to the desire to press out, alone, some bitterer, some blacker juice, which was sweet too. But now we are worn out.’

Italicized paragraphs about nature (flowers, streams) act as chapter breaks as the characters move from one stage of life to another. The six meet periodically over the years, usually for dinner.

It’s Virginia Woolf so we expect and get great writing. Some of my favorite passages:

[a train]: "There is the very powerful, bottle-green engine without a neck, all back and thighs, breathing steam."

"Louis, glancing, tripping with the high step of a disdainful crane, picks up words as if in sugar-tongs."

"Nothing should be named lest by doing so we change it. Let it exist, this bank, this beauty, and I, for one instant, steeped in pleasure."

"The sun fell in sharp wedges inside the room. Whatever the light touched became dowered with a fanatical existence. A plate was like a white lake. A knife looked like a dagger of ice."

Like Nabokov, you have to have your dictionary on hand. A few I looked up were emulously (emulating); assegais (spear); guillemot (type of tern); charabanc (bus); conglobulated (just what you think – clustered); nacreous (pearly, iridescent).

I will definitely read this book again. It’s more a book that you “absorb” than read.


Top image: Painting by Peter Barker, Rolling Breakers, Pentreath Beach on mallgalleries.org.uk
The author (1882-1941) from newyorker.com
Profile Image for Garima.
113 reviews1,774 followers
June 25, 2013

The sun rose. Its rays fell in sharp wedges inside the room. Whatever the light touched became dowered with a fanatical existence. A plate was like a white lake. A knife looked like a dagger of ice. Suddenly my copy of ‘The Waves’ became alive as the clouds on the cover page started floating in resplendent movements and the water of the ocean moved swiftly over the edges of several dog-eared pages carrying along thousands of words written upon them, to a world they rightfully belongs to. Drifting in the cradle of nature, under the roof of blue/black sky, amidst beauty they could equate with. Merging into the ubiquitous elements of the cosmos, they were finally home. The waves...finally broke out.

I’m stunned. I’m in a dire need of phrases. Right phrases. Perfect phrases. Phrases that can describe a smidgen of splendor this book contain. But I’m inadequate. Immensely inadequate. I wish I were a poet or a writer. I’m neither and I have no one to blame. Yet I’m vacillating between being angry and being envious. Angry with? Envious Of? I better avoid questions and negative words. This is not the right place when this is THE right book. I’m in awe of Virginia Woolf. That’s more like it. I’m...I, I, I, she busted this very ‘I’ with her mesmerizing sentences in The Waves. Waves that can’t exist in isolation. They need water, they need wind, and they need rhythm. They need to be the ‘sum total’ to be a ‘whole’. Likewise, Bernard, Susan, Louis, Jinny, Neville and Rhoda, who have their individual lives but they also exist to fulfill other lives. The lives of their friends, their lovers and eventually, their own.

This is my second outing with Virginia Woolf. By way of To the Lighthouse, I treaded my path towards the shore while assessing the depth of the ocean and the vastness of horizon in order to prepare myself to tackle the waves. But kindly mark my words here: nothing can prepare you for that. I have taken a vow after reading The Waves that I’ll never entitle any book as my favorite until and unless I read all the great novels the world of literature has to offer. It seems improbable but fascinating to think of because otherwise I believe it’s nothing but a folly, an unfair judgment on our part. I can say ‘never before’ though. Yes. Never before I’ve read a book like this. Its beauty is excruciating to the extent that on several occasions I had to stop reading it. It was intolerable to carry on with so much magnificence on display as if you’re witnessing the creation of the world with your naked eyes.

The book follows the lives of six friends and their individual thought processes from childhood to their youth, from marriage to children, from middle age to death. The whole book is in the form of internal monologues with few initial elucidations about who is thinking what but that too is later withdrawn by Woolf with a belief in readers (I suppose!) that they’ll identify the characters through their cerebration only. This does make it sound a bit difficult and apparently boring but it’s not, it can’t be. It can be slightly demanding of your concentration but it’s sure to hook you from the very first sentence so it won’t be hard to focus except when you start ruminating about your life only. That’s where another brilliance of this novel lies. It’s so easy to relate with it. May be not with specifics but the generalities it implies.
We have chosen now, or sometimes it seems the choice was made for us—a pair of tongs pinched us between the shoulders. I chose. I took the print of life not outwardly, but inwardly upon the raw, the white, the unprotected fibre. I am clouded and bruised with the print of minds and faces and things so subtle that they have smell, colour, texture, substance, but no name.

Our lives are nothing but a multitude of moments, of choices made, of friends found and lost, of replacements, of connections made, of books read, of words written, of mistakes committed, of lessons learnt, of stories told, of finding ourselves. We know all this to some extent and probably Woolf also knew that everybody know this but still she went on to write something unique to show rather than tell. She aimed at finding a thread, a fine thread that binds us all together. She shows what makes us all different and yet makes us one. She shows the power of one single person, one single moment which is enough to act as a unifying force. There is poetry, yes. There is lyrical prose too. There is music and rhythm. There is no plot- I’m writing the waves to a rhythm not to a plot. True. There is saturation of every atom. Everything is here, everything. In the process of my reading, I was wondering if she used custom made words but no, I’ve come across them before but they never sound so enchanting to me. And that’s how it is. Sometimes we read thousands of words and not a single one of them rings true and sometimes we happen upon a book like The Waves in which every single word is conveying a truth of our being.

I’m not sure how consciously I have been able to follow the stream of thoughts of various characters but I know this much- I have read this book now and I found a part of my past in musings of Jinny and Louis, a part of my present in musings of Susan and Bernard, an appreciation and anticipation for my future in musings of Rhoda and Neville. I’ll read this book again, hoping to find a part of my then past, present and future. The equation of tenses will change but the words shall remain intact in their truth and beauty. Those of you, who haven’t read it, please do yourself a favor and read it soon. Read it coming Thursday or Saturday. Read it coming July or September. Read it in 2014 or 2025. Just read it before you die.

Now begins to rise in me the familiar rhythm; words that have lain dormant now lift, now toss their crests, and fall and rise, and fall and rise again. I am a poet, yes.
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
778 reviews
March 31, 2021
I am in a fever.
Awareness is heightened.
Words have purple shadows.
Sentences gleam yellow-green
Paragraphs are lined in reddish gold
Everything shimmers, sharp as waves in sunlight.
The normal is abolished

Voices roll towards me, one upon another,
declaim their truth and roll away again, one upon another,
the arc of each voice different, the rhythm the same:
Bernard, Susan, Louis, Bernard.
Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, Bernard.
Louis, Neville, Susan, Bernard
Susan, Louis, Neville, Bernard,
Bernard, Bernard, Bernard, Bernard.

Six names, six faces, surging toward the light.
Six names, six faces, falling away, each in turn,
Until only one remains: Bernard.

And Bernard says, Sit with me, and I do.
And he describes the voices, describes them all.
And he drops phrases one upon another.
Measures out life, drop by drop,
I strike the table with a spoon.
If I could measure things with compasses I would,
but since my measure is a phrase, I make phrases.

And meantime, women shuffle past the window
And the clock ticks on.
And Bernard makes his phrases.

I conceive myself called upon to provide, some winter’s night,
a meaning for all my observations,
a line that runs from one to another
a summing up that completes...
But soliloquies in back streets soon pall.
I need an audience.
That is my downfall.

Bernard punctuates with repetitions,
a symphony with its concord and its discord,
and its tunes on top and its complicated bass beneath

And meantime, women shuffle past with shopping bags
And always the chained beast stamping.
And Bernard's phrases.

I only come into existence when the plumber,
or the horse-dealer, or whoever it may be,
says something which sets me alight.
Then how lovely the smoke of my phrase is,
rising and falling, flaunting and falling,
upon red lobsters and yellow fruit,
wreathing them into one beauty.

And meantime, women carrying baskets
And the tablecloth and its yellow stain
And the recurring drop that falls.

And time, says Bernard, lets fall its drop.
The drop that has formed on the roof of the soul falls.
On the roof of my mind time, forming, lets fall its drop....
This falling drop is time tapering to a point.
As a drop falls from a glass heavy with some sediment, time falls.

And meantime, women carrying pitchers on their heads
And the constant naming of the days: Tuesday follows Monday: Wednesday, Tuesday. Each spreads the same ripple.

Drop upon drop, says Bernard, silence falls.
It forms on the roof of the mind and falls into pools beneath.
For ever alone, alone, alone - hear silence fall
and sweep its rings to the farthest edges.
Gorged and replete, solid with middle-aged content,
I, whom loneliness destroys, let silence fall, drop by drop.


There is the recurring theme of the shark fin, revolving far out in the waves,
the fin of inspiration:
...leaning over this parapet I see far out a waste of water. A fin turns,
the fin that rises in the wastes of silence, and then..sinks back into the depths,
spreading around it a little ripple of satisfaction, content...

There are the sheep, advancing remorselessly through the narrative in that wooden way of theirs, step by step on stiff, pointed legs

There is the grindstone, the rush of the great grindstone within an inch of my head.

There are moths, which sailing through the room had shadowed the immense solidity of chairs and tables with floating wings
And Jinny’s yellow scarf is moth coloured in the light

There is love and hate.

There is the colour purple.

There is a red carnation in a vase

There are stoats nailed to stable doors.

There are white petal ships floating in brown oceans.

And Bernard's voice, no longer making phrases:
Nothing, nothing, nothing broke with its fin that leaden waste of waters

But always the waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews166 followers
February 9, 2017
The sun fell in sharp wedges inside the room. Whatever the light touched became dowered with a fanatical existence. A plate was like a white lake. A knife looked like a dagger of ice. Suddenly tumblers revealed themselves upheld by streaks of light.
As I turn the pages of The Waves, Virginia Woolf talks to me, to my heart, my spirit and my soul, like I could not have imagined. Such splendor and beauty come to me through her words, and I feel like singing with her. She sings life, a life that begins and goes on and on. So I keep reading and hope to get lost, to blend with the pages whose sounds are just like the very waves that come and go inexorably.
The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.

If only I could write, if only I were a poet. If only I knew who I was, but I feel the six of them as if they shared my soul. Yes, there are six, and I am only one. But each talks to a part of me. A part that I recognize or a part that I try to hide. As a woman, I am Jinny, Susan, and Rhoda and at the same time, I am not. But I am also Bernard, Neville, and Louis in their daily struggles, despite sometimes feeling so foreign to them. But I am all of them, and they are me. ‘I do not know myself sometimes, or how to measure and name and count out the grains that make me what I am.’ We play on along, and we live, we are human in our frailty and our imperfections. We live in our different scenarios, but all in the same planet. And I weep and smile with them for what they fought and are loved for, for their fears and for their insecurities, and their lovers.
The activity is endless. And tomorrow it begins again; tomorrow we make Saturday. Some take train for France; others ship for India. Some will never come into this room again. One may die tonight. Another will beget a child. From us every sort of building, policy, venture, picture, poem, child, factory, will spring. Life comes; life goes; we make life. So you say.

I that had for long forgotten to look inside myself, now crave to know why I lost so many friends or was lost by them. I am jealous of their friendship, as I sometimes feel so solitary and desperate for that human connection that seems some days so far away. I am a chameleon, for I am all six at the same time. Even Percival, for I have died even having survived. ‘How curious one is changed by the addition, even at a distance, of a friend.’ And I still feel the sorrow of those friends that I do not see anymore, and so seem dead to me. He is all the friends I lost, their long gone memories, and all the friends I gave up. He is the isolation that I built for myself. Was it pride or simply forgetfulness? I grieve and want to yell for help. Is there still time? Could we meet for dinner and perhaps share all our happiness, our misgivings, and our sufferings?
I have had one moment of enormous peace. This perhaps is happiness. Now I am drawn back by pricking sensations; by curiosity, greed (I am hungry) and the irresistible desire to be myself. I think of people to whom I could say things: Louis, Neville, Susan, Jinny and Rhoda. With them I am many-sided. They retrieve me from darkness. We shall meet tonight, thank Heaven. Thank Heaven, I need not be alone.

Despite all that I imagine I have in common with all six of them, I feel a special connection with Bernard. Why is that so? Should it not have been with Susan, a female with her family life and her children? I that am also a mother. But no, it is Bernard that talks most to me. Maybe that is because he is the storyteller of the group of friends, what keeps them together. Or perhaps he is one but is at the same time all six of them.
Light almost pierced the thin swift waves as they raced fan-shaped over the beach. The girl who had shaken her head and made all the jewels, the topaz, the aquamarine, the water-coloured jewels with sparks of fire in them, dance, now bared her brows and with wide-opened eyes drove a straight pathway over the waves.

I watch as the waves break close to my feet and I cannot devise how it feels to be confronted with such force and immensity, to hear its deafening bellows as it crashes and almost kills me. ‘The waves fell; withdrew and fell again, like the thud of a great beast stamping.’ And I feel I am always eavesdropping on Bernard, Neville, Louis, Jinny, Susan and Rhoda, and I listen to them and journey with them from day to day. I now can say that I met the grave and quiet Neville and understood his love for another part of himself – ‘The leaves now are thick in country lanes, sheep cough in the damp fields; but here in your room we are dry. We talk privately.’ I encountered the ambitious and insecure outsider Louis – ‘I repeat, “I am an average Englishman; I am an average clerk”, yet I look at the little men at the next table to be sure that I do what they do.’ I shared experiences with Susan, her idyllic visions of family and rustic life – ‘At this hour, this still early hour, I am the field, I am the barn, I am the trees; mine are the flocks of birds, and the young hare who leaps, at the last moment when I step almost on him.’ Yes, I have felt for Rhoda’s fear of life, her terror of always being lost and unheard – ‘Identity failed me. We are nothing. I said, and fell.’ I encountered the passionate Jinny and her volatility and her need to feel loved – ‘Now with a little jerk, like a limpet broken from a rock, I am broken off: I fall with him; I am carried off. We yield to this slow flood. We go in and out of this hesitating music.’ And I know Bernard, the eternal storyteller who failed in his first love but unites the friends not only with words – ‘Who am I thinking of? Byron of course. I am, in some ways, like Byron. Perhaps a sip of Byron will help put me in the vein. Let me read a page.’

I am in love with their names and their destinies, I am always with them and outside of it all, but present in spirit.
‘Words and words and words, how they gallop—how they lash their long manes and tails, but for some fault in me I cannot give myself to their backs; I cannot fly with them, scattering women and string bags. There is some flaw in me—some fatal hesitancy, which, if I pass it over, turns to foam and falsity. Yet it is incredible that I should not be a great poet.’

I read each word, Virginia Woolf’s words, and her lyricism makes me feel very luxurious inside. She uses words that are metaphors for our everyday life, such as waves and storms. Words that are each and every one a treasure to our intellect and our souls. She is a poet and reminds me of Fernando Pessoa and The Book of Disquiet. She has led me through an ephemeral life, or better, six lives, and I feel replete and indulged. And I feel alive despite dying in the end.
And now I ask, “Who am I?” I have been talking of Bernard, Neville, Jinny, Susan, Rhoda and Louis. Am I all of them? Am I one and distinct? I do not know.

Profile Image for Piyangie.
518 reviews412 followers
September 23, 2021
What Virginia Woolf does to me by her books no author living or dead has been able to do. She with her poetry and creativity takes me to some outer world enchanting and free. My mind wanders and is lost in its beauty and is simply unable to find its way back to the present realities for some time. The Waves took me through that journey into the lives of six characters, their relationship with each other, and their outlook on life and death.

Through internal soliloquies and thoughts, six different characters tell us of their stories that begin in their childhood and stretch through their youth, adulthood, and old age. Their stories illuminate us of their struggle to understand their true identity which is cloaked by their surroundings - people and objects, and their intimacy with each other. Time, experience, and maturity make them realize that while they shape each other in certain ways, they are six different identities that are partly known and partly unknown to each other. On to this struggle is brought "death" - the enemy, with the premature demise of their young friend, Percival which forces the six to consider deeply the meaning of life against the newfound formidable foe.

The Waves is the most experimenting novel of Virginia Woolf. The use of internal soliloquies is a creative addition to her stream of consciousness. The inner soliloquies and thoughts of the characters through which they say their story is interrupted by nine interludes. These nine interludes with the use of metaphors and symbols from nature show the passage of time.

The beauty of Virginia Woolf's books lies in her creativity and her language. The Waves I believe is the climax of her achievement. The whole composition is one poem. There is a lyrical beauty in every sentence. And it is also a painting with its colours. The tone is melancholy which suited the theme of the story. There is much symbology but the Sun and Waves are prominent. Sun was the beginning of hope - the life - the vitality. The Waves is the change - the continuation of life.

No one can write like Virginia Woolf. She overwhelms me with each book of hers in a way no other author can. She is a genius unparalleled.
Profile Image for Katie.
268 reviews334 followers
March 8, 2019
Tough one to review this because at times it feels like Virginia Woolf sees and knows things beyond the comprehension of us mere mortals! There are times when she seems to perceive quantum worlds through the sensibility of an animal, even an insect. There are also times when she maybe gets a bit carried away with her fanciful metaphors and other times when I wasn't able to quite follow her. But the best passages - and there are loads of them - make most other writing in comparison seem like amateurish scribbling.

The founding concept of the book is of six close friends and their shared experience all the way from childhood to old age. And who speak of their pivotal experiences in a private poetical language that you have to learn, almost like a foreign language, as the book progresses. The lyrical prose has a secretive quality as if moonlit. As if we're being ushered into a world hidden by day. All six characters form their identity in relation to each other. Though the novel is short on comedy Woolf is continually mocking the way biographies and histories are traditionally written. Her characters can't be caught by facts. Facts, in fact, are irrelevant unless accompanied by forceful feeling. The Waves is all about feeling; how we are formed by what we feel and how integral loved ones are in forming us by making us feel. And what better metaphor is there for feelings than waves?

I suspect it's a novel you'll either love to bits or simply won't connect with - as happens to all of us with music. The Waves is perhaps the closest prose gets to imitating music. The tightly controlled rhythmic beat of the prose, brilliantly reminiscent of waves, often compels you without realising it to read the words on the page aloud. And speaking the words aloud you appreciate the marvels of the book's design - in particular Woolf's poetic command of rhythm and the moonlit witchcraft of her prose.
Profile Image for Seemita.
180 reviews1,584 followers
February 9, 2017
Hi. || Hi. || Is it you? || Yes, I am. || You look different. || Should I have been same? || Mmm... I don’t know. But you have my color. || In setting auburn, yes. || But it still looks content on your skin; that color – like a sheet of fine, wet porcelain covering a tired, antique statue. || And you look dazed, as if an army of nebulous thoughts have held you captive. || Is it so evident? || Yes. || I met a few people – Bernard, Susan, Louis… || …Jinny, Neville and Rhoda. I know. || Do you remember them? || They never left me. || Even after so many years? || Time has shuffled what was detached from me; what was within me, was always out of its reach. || So it all begun from where I stand. || And it walked with you till where I stand. || In the same form? || In what form you say? || I don’t know. But it feels like my mind and body dissolved its hinges and fused into that of those six people who combed through life with the precision of a surgeon… || …and the flamboyance of an artist. They let their vial overflow and got injected into your veins, sprucing your limp persona to rise like a volcanic sapling, splashing your vision with hues, bunched and scattered. You became them and you permitted it. || How could I not? Were you not present when we picked abandoned pebbles of insecurities on the way and held them hidden in our clothes of opaque vanity? Were you not a witness to the swinging that erupted from our trees of longing, long enough to allow crystallization with birches of affection in our hair? Would you deny the scene where we luxuriated at the thought of being serenaded by that young traveler, eventually kissing the rutted soil that he kicked with his indifferent boots on his voyage away from us? Were you not a secret enthusiast when we paused to bite into the luscious fruits of solitude only to experience a lonely taste hijacking our mouths in the most nauseous of sensations? Did you not skip a beat at the sight of us, lain ambushed behind the currant trees of ambition that were trimmed by parental legacy exposing our being to a twisted life bearing resemblance to an encumbered ball of alien proclivity? Did you not? || I did. With apprehension. And with h… || Then why did you not stop us? Stop ME? || Because amid everything, I saw you with hope. And revitalizing continuity. I am not surprised you let the streams of incredulity flow into the six, for they made the river that I am today. || But the streams were fledgling! Didn’t you see? In the vast ocean of my life, our pulses flickered like inconsolable dreams; now made and now thrashed. We were young, confused, hopeful, repulsive, always standing by the window of expectation, ready to be swept away even under the winds of anonymity and recklessness. We could not say the good from the bad. If only a wedge named Percival could have stood on our fertile surfaces, we could have perhaps…. || …not lived the life that you did. But who is to say what life we have to make? Isn’t life what we can capture in a diary and sing as a song? Isn’t it the crisp bed we lie on after a day of hard work? Why else should…. || …Life is not the view from the perch of simplicity that you elucidate in eloquence. The rules of the society are painted in huge, black letters on the wall that envelop our breathing. And they are not erasable. || But interpretable. || Perhaps. Did I do a good job interpreting it? Did I read the rules and still make mine? Inserting a letter here and recoloring a word there? Have I ever come close to understanding life? Ever? || Well, in the suns that rise and moons that melt, we found meaning of life. In the rains that drench and frost that shrivels, we found meaning of life. I have bathed in the sun-kissed day that danced in your bright eyes and you have shivered in the wintriness of my hunched shoulders. I have collected the shells you shed in the corners of your bed when no one was looking and you have swung the lilies from the roof I lay prostrate on to lull the world beneath. I have stood witness when you opened the doors to stray dogs and cats and learnt the art to welcome a stranger when it was time. You have shared my marks of jealousy like an unhealed wound that acts as the reminder of impending tests spurting from the corners of our aspirations. I walked along with you on the path of love and loss, family and friends, victory and failures, reality and drama and never lost sense of the road. The road, this road, that you have been asked to traverse, that I have traversed in its unevenness, coarseness, unpredictability and lengthiness, is a lullaby that tampers with our sensory beams and evokes reactions not written in our palms. You say I stand like an antique statue? Well, I have learnt over my dainty walks and strained tapping that empty eyes speak the loudest. And the stoic porcelain continues to draw figures on my body that no one, but my silent eyes, can decipher. When the sun hides behind the restless waves and the white foam strips its light into shadows, I can still make a drawing in the sand and not be worried of its fate. || Even in its transience, there is meaning? || Yes. In its transience, there is meaning. Because there are memories. I am afraid if I were to render form to memories, I would view it as a long vestibuled train which rearranges its compartments to derive a faster, nimbler run but never coughs enough steam to disengage any one of them. You see, memories are creations. And there is no better role to acquire than that of a creator. The very best. || But being a creator is also a bane; sometimes he has to let fall the axe on what is unacceptable. || But what pride would you have if you never created anything on your own? You love your warm coffee in the morning and the soft pillow at night. But try giving space to a fading rose in your vase; or a rumpled shawl on your shoulders. Perhaps, you can draw a familiar aroma or feel an acquainted warmth. And if you get neither, don’t fret; they get magically synthesized into memory pearls that keep dotting the steady and sinking steps you take on the shore of life, much like navigators to lead you where you truly belong. || Would they be illuminating forever? || Indeed. || That is a resuscitating relief. But… You look different. || Do I? || Yes. Wait! Is it you? || Yes, I am you.
Profile Image for Rowena.
500 reviews2,463 followers
September 11, 2013
“No, but I wish to go under; to visit the profound depths; once in a while to exercise my prerogative not always to act, but to explore; to hear vague, ancestral sounds of boughs creaking, of mammoths, to indulge impossible desires to embrace the whole world with the arms of understanding, impossible to those who act.” - Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Virginia Woolf never ceases to amaze me. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would actually enjoy books written in the stream-of-consciousness style, I would probably have laughed. I was definitely not a fan of this writing style and initially felt that it was one of the most difficult writing styles to follow; it actually infuriated me at times. However, I am now a convert and I see the beauty of that style. And Virginia Woolf is probably the most adept and poetic writer of this sort of writing.

There’s no easy way for me to summarize this book. It follows the lives of a group of friends; Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, Louis and Percival, from childhood through adulthood. We hear, in turn, the internal monologues of each of these characters and they help piece the story together, as well as inform us of the characters' personalities.

Out of all the characters, I liked Bernard the most. I found him to be truly perceptive and sensitive to things around him, his relationship with others, and his own feelings. He sees the importance of language and is obsessed with words:

“Words and words and words, how they gallop- how they lash their long manes and tails, but for some fault in me I cannot give myself to their backs; I cannot fly with them.”

Woolf’s writing is truly brilliant, lyrical and poetic. It is also very sad, especially the philosophical musings written when the group members are older, the musings of people who are grappling with different desires in life and who are wondering whether they are happy with their lives, especially when they encounter death.

I liked the descriptions of nature, waves in particular. They were many such references throughout the book, it was almost as if the whole story was saturated with water, giving it a bleak atmosphere:

“But wait- I sat all night waiting- an impulse again runs through us; we rise, we toss back a mane of white spray; we pound on the shore; we are not to be confined.”

I must admit, I wasn’t always 100% sure who was speaking but somehow I never lost track of the story. I’m sure that with a second reading, things will become clearer and I’ll be able to get more out of it.
Profile Image for Luís.
1,858 reviews515 followers
July 21, 2022
It is difficult to critique the Waves; it is a text that is felt but only in an absolute way—invading the flow of the mind, emotions, and the deep course of existence. I read it a long time ago. It is still in my memory; it inhabits and enriches me. I resonate with the essence of what is delivered and discovered a form of perfection in literature. The state is liberated but to better vibrate and diffuse, with a richness that many current novels, dull and cold by dint of wanting to be stripped of constraints, have never been able to match. It is a dream, but the time of this dream is the whole essence of life that passes.
December 1, 2017
A review of second reading coming.

Initial Review:
We know so little of others. Barely we capture pieces of ourselves which can be cobbled together into what we believe ourselves to be; the unified presence necessary to calculate and cope with with the underside of the unfurling wave of life's chaos.

The book opens upon a group of innocents, small sensitive children at a private school in the country. They take turns, perhaps in a game, naming what is happening around them. Would children speak in the perceptive elevation of poetics? The sentences are couched in, she said, or he said. Plain as...It could be what is in their minds; their unspoken thoughts. The group has been like a primordial cluster with the slight beginnings of tentative separations.

"Up here Bernard, Neville, Jinny and Susan (but not Rhoda) skim the flower beds with their nets. They skim the butterflies from the nodding tops of the flowers. They brush the surface of the world. Their nets are full of fluttering wings.'Louis! Louis! Louis!' they shout. But they cannot see me. I am on the other side of the hedge. There are only little eyeholes among the leaves..."

Their staid and structured lives parceled in prepared segments is disrupted as life seeps in.

Louis, surprised, is kissed by Jinny,while making himself invisible within the bushes.

The maid is kissed by a kitchen worker in the full dazzle of kitchen garden sunlight, "I saw Florrie in the garden," said Susan, as we came back from our walk, with the washing blown out around her, the pajamas, the drawers, the night-gowns blown tight.And Earnest kissed her. He was in his green baize apron cleaning silver; and his mouth was sucked like a purse in wrinkles and he seized her with the pajamas blown out hard between them. He was blind as a bull, and she swooned in anguish, only little veins streaking her white cheeks red. Now though they pass plates of bread and butter and cups of milk at tea-time I see a crack in the earth and hot steam hisses up; and the urn roars as Ernest roared, and I am blown out hard like the pajamas,even while my teeth meet in the soft bread and butter, and I lap the sweet milk..."

"Since I am supposed," said Neville, "to be too delicate to go with them, since I get so easily tired then am sick, I will use this hour of solitude, this reprieve from conversation, to coast round the purlieus of the house and recover, if I can, by standing on the same stair half-way up the landing, what I felt what when I heard about the dead man through the swing-door last night when cook was shoving in and out the dampers. He was found with his throat cut. The apple tree leaves became fixed in the sky; the moon glared; I was unable to lift my foot up the stair. He was found in the gutter. His blood gurgled down the gutter. His jowl was white as a dead cod-fish. I shall call this stricture, this rigidity, 'death among the apple trees,' forever...But we are doomed, all of us by the apple trees, by the immitigable tree which we cannot pass."

Their reprieve is too watch Percival, this savior figure, a student muscular, carefree, not wounded by the burden of self-consciousness. He is watched but not joined. The group watches but does not join. Each remains within their precious starlit moments, perceptions, remarks. The, he saids, she saids, take place only within their minds. We are not invited. We are thrust in and reside there. We hear character's reflections upon themselves, others, as well as events we have heard within another's mind. This is not a book about the inner consciousness of characters-which I love-but a book where the reader lives within another's consciousness. This is where the genius of Woolf takes realism to new heights. Science cannot take us within the experience of another person, the uncountable experiences of the progression of moments through the hours of a day, a night. Woolf has. I believe she meant this poetic prose to be read a sentence a day. Each day giving it time to settle and surface within a spectered prism to cup within one's hands and cherish.

Time passes easily within this book that is not a book when reading, which does not exist in any palpable form. As each get older and goes off, though only able to countenance the world through their mental existence as part of the primordial group, they become staid in their performance allotted to them of, philosophy, culture, attachment to nature, reason, love of the continuous flow of apt phrases, the crumbling of boundaries bringing about both fearsome and beatific images. They ride above life in a rarified atmosphere. Then news is received. The savior is dead. He has not risen. There had been a party to see him off to India. The trembles of fear of entering the world as adults haunts the party, their final separations. In India he died in a riding accident. Life, this world so inane in its appearances has flooded in with the concreteness, not of the remarkable-remark but the flow of guts and blood and...death.

This is not an event that can be assimilated within their scope of existence. As when life earlier interceded their thoughts and diction, it prevented them from taking any further step up. They settled into lives incongruent with natures never found, perhaps never sought, though congruent with who they seemed. The desperate awkward reunion arranged by Bernard in mid-life is a painful listening to all that is not in their lives and now will never be. The high and mighty, who disdained those all-to-ready to sacrifice the anxieties of philosophical searchings for the existence of hum-drum survival, found themselves trapped within the trophies of their once heralded self-heard speeches. Compromises quieted and unnoticed pass in isolation. Poor Bernard seeks himself, not the parts that respond to who he is visiting or to a particular situation. When alone all he can do is come up with phrases to label feelings, others, events which have or are unfolding, as Neville, sitting alone will pull another book down off the shelf. None, are able to see things as they are and therefore cannot see what is beneath or is waiting. They are removed by a layer of film of their own making. What they thought brilliance was defense. What they lacked was the strength to face the onslaught. Bernard sees the next morning the city awakening as a resurrection. Woolf goes on to show us what follows. What life is. What we are called to and why. In her precise, poetic prose she does not hesitate, she does not falter.

If allotted only enough time to read one last book this is the one I would choose. It is the only book I have read which so completely does not write but experiences the totality of life. All novels henceforth flowed and flows from this book. Each wittingly or unwittingly tries to gain its reach, its complexity, completion.
Profile Image for Alan.
419 reviews180 followers
January 21, 2022
You know you are in the grasp of a powerful author when you have to be snapped out of a reverie at lunch, because you are thinking back to how old you were yesterday, and how all of your troubles amounted to a lot of headaches. Growth of character occurred, but you’re still in flux. The goals you had set five years ago… some of them materialized, some didn’t, and you are on a hedonic treadmill. You are thinking of the time you shared with a few close friends, those days after school where you ran outside onto the field with abandon, running because you could, no one was chasing you. There was laughter and helter-skelter. That field was where you confessed the truth, allowed yourself to believe for the first time. That field was where you fought, tears of shame and tears of bitter anger. Life happened, two to three hours a day, at least when the weather permitted it. There was one single day where you all sat down together after a kickabout, thinking about the next day, relishing the fatigue in your muscles, cherishing the dying rays of the sun; that was the last day that you were all gathered together on that field. You had no idea. You couldn’t even pinpoint that day if you were asked, but it must have happened. Lunch is still happening.

The depressive waves of heat that come off Woolf’s writing are very vivid to me. Perhaps because I know how it all ended, yes, I have spoken of that before. But it drags me down, deliciously, wonderfully. I have no qualms with letting myself go to that place in which I know she wants to reside. The same patterns are apparent in her works that I have had the pleasure of reading so far – identity, loss of youth, becoming, goals, reconciliation. Hers is a prose of pathos, of one looking back with a tinge of regret. She sneers at surface success, as she knows that the most successful and pain-free among all of us have moments we would give our entire net worth to change. This book is no different, and like To the Lighthouse, it’s a timeless story and a sharp reminder to make something of the day. I will need the benefit of time and hindsight to see which has stuck with me more – The Waves or To the Lighthouse. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about the latter’s peak, Time Passes. That peak is not crystallized here, but spreads itself across the deceptively thin book.

Finally, Bernard and I got along swimmingly – so much so that his doubts about life were making my breathing short, sharp, and raspy. This needs a second read immediately, but for now, I will wait a couple of years to see how it incubates.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,178 reviews1,936 followers
March 29, 2015
This is a wonderful novel; Woolf herself referred to it as a play-poem. Often when I’m thinking about a review I will read what others have written, do a bit of research about the context or author. In this case, that approach is not really possible because there is a whole industry around Woolf and her novels and people spend academic lifetimes on all this!
Woolf said she was writing to a rhythm and not to a plot and the novel is a series of interludes and episodes revolving around six characters Susan, Jinny, Rhoda, Bernard, Louis and Neville. There is also Percival who does not feature in the novel, but is a focus for the others and whose early death in India has a significant effect on the others. Each character speaks over nine parallel episodes from childhood to late middle age. The wave metaphor appears and reappears and gives structure. Woolf tends to base her characters on people she knew and The Waves is no exception. Susan is Woolf’s sister Vanessa; Louis is most likely part Leonard Woolf and part T S Eliot; Neville is Lytton Strachey and possibly part Duncan Grant; Bernard creates some disagreement amongst critics who are split between Desmond McCarthy and E M Forster; Jinny is clearly part Woolf herself (Jinny was her father’s nickname for her), but also may be Kitty Maxse or Mary Hutchinson); Rhoda is also partly based on Woolf herself. The elusive and charismatic Percival around whom the group revolves is probably based on Thoby Stephen, Virginia’s brother, around whose memory the Bloomsbury group formed. Of course, this being Woolf, there are other views and some have argued that each of the voices/characters are actually part of Woolf herself and she is holding them in tension throughout, examining different parts of herself. She is certainly looking at the collective aspects of identity and the way the boundaries of identity merge and coalesce with that of the wider world.
I think Woolf is in some ways thinking in a more musical or even symphonic way; as though each character were a different musical instrument, all combining to produce a greater whole. This fluidity and movement is also reflected in the descriptions of the waves, which are italicised and separate the nine parts of the novel. The sections relating to the waves cover one day, which is the whole lifetime of the characters. Percival represents solidity and reliability. The sort of certainty that the Empire, the upper middle classes and the Victorian and Edwardian era represented. It is no coincidence that Percival goes to India. His death represents the whole edifice crumbling and the innate uncertainty of life itself. It may represent Woolf’s feelings about the loss of her brother, her own distress at the abuse she endured at the hands of her step-brother, the cataclysm of the war, her own mental illness; nothing is sure. There have been critics who have argued that Woolf is being over mystical and visionary; but close reading does indicate that Woolf is making some political points as well; this is not far in time from A Room of One’s Own. She mocks the all-male public school system, particularly as it produces figures like Percival and is critiquing colonialism at the same time.
The Waves is also Woolf’s reflection on the inexorable nature of death as Bernard sums up the whole thing in the closing pages. The end reminded me of Don Quixote astride Rocinante tilting at a windmill; the windmill being death. We all fling ourselves against “unvanquished and unyielding” Death; Woolf eventually chose how rather than wait for it.
In “A Sketch of the Past” Woolf said “that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art … we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.” In The Waves Woolf expresses these ideas in her play-poem in a beautiful and lyrical novel laden with images and reflections that dazzle, stretch the mind and ask difficult questions. I loved this; as broad in scope as the sea and intensely personal; written with great craft and style.
Profile Image for Dream.M.
453 reviews90 followers
December 19, 2020
آخرین تصویر که از ویلای شمالمان باهم دارم، درخت خرمالوی پشت پنجره است که همان دیروزِ آن صبح پاییزی، میوه های جوان و شادابش را که مثل ریسه ای رنگی از لامپهای نارنجی کمرنگ و پررنگ لای شاخه ها پیچیده بود، باهم چیدیم.
و بعد از آن باران.
دلتنگی که می‌آید سراغت، شب و صبح حالی‌ش نیست. دلیل هم لازم ندارد. گاهی آدم با دیدن خرمالو هم پشتش تیر می‌کشد. با بوی اسپند. رنگ صورتی. با دیدن تکه کاغذی که اتفاقی لای کتابم پیداش میکنم و روی آن نوشته ای دوستت دارم.
فکر نکن که خود خواهم یا شهوت زندگیم بیشتر از توست. اما اگر قرار بود بین خودم و تو فقط یکی از ما را انتخاب کنم که این رنجِ ماندن را بچشد، شک ندارم خودم را انتخاب میکردم.
سخت میگذرد. و تو نمی‌توانستی. قلب کوچک زیبایت تحمل اینهمه درد را نداشت.شاید منهم نتوانسته‌ام.
کتاب شگفت انگیز، جادویی، شعر ناب، بگو غزل، شورانگیز.
در هر جمله اش غرق شدم. فرو رفتم و بالا آمدم، تطهیر شدم.
این کتاب برای من ارزش مضاعف داره. هدیه‌‌ی تولد از دوستی باارزش و بسیار کتابخوان که خیلی مدیونش هستم.
Profile Image for Lee Klein .
799 reviews851 followers
February 7, 2017
Best book ever, I said when I finished before returning to the first non-italicized page to re-read phrases that this time around didn't baffle (as much). A quarter through, as I started saying "wow" aloud at perfectly phrased phrases (that "land on two feet"), it was clear that this is and has always been an obvious canonical MVP. Tried reading it maybe ten years ago sitting in a Jiffy Lube waiting room, got to page 21 (dog-eared it), reading without retention, turning pages but not much else, and so didn't return to it after the oil change. Loved All That Man Is recently and recognized that it shared (or stole) its structure somewhat from this one; they both trace the long curve of life and are about life itself rather than some aspect of it. I'll have to adjust my rating for "All That Man Is" since this is about as good as it gets. Impressionistic, absolutely individuated, unpredictable, supremely insightful, and carefully crafted elevated language (phrases). No reference to Wittgenstein (as they do nowadays, creating an easy impression of intelligence). This is the real deal: original insight into the rhythms and texture of life. Essential: life and language reduced to their essence, which elevates everything. Ordinarily I'd rail against Disembodied Proper Noun Syndrome but disembodiment is part of the point; it emphasizes the voices, like a chorus of angels intoning perfectly weighted incantations to evoke what had been their corresponding bodies' lives. An exaggeratedly written text, self-consciously a compilation of phrases, the author's presence always benignly hovering over the words, and yet there's Bernard, Neville, Percival, Jinny, Rhoda, Susan, all of them I know now, all of them I see. Interesting to imagine what a contemporary version of this would be like, with childhood imaginations branded by Disney and Pixar (Lego Ninjas seem to occupy my daughter's imagination these days, usurping Paw Patrol, which vanquished Transformers) and young adult consciousnesses infiltrated by Instagram activity. But this, although ~85 years old at this point, is timeless, since it's abstracted; the grains in the wood of the door, the path through the sand, the red carnation, the textures, the rhythms, and the curve of time, the "sex scene" on page 103, and of course the bands of onrushing waves are timeless. Most semi-colons ever in a novel maybe? Ideal example of a novel that teaches you how to read it. "Immeasurably receptive, holding everything, trembling with fulness, yet clear, contained . . ." Will need to re-read multiple times of course. And now might re-read "The Sound and the Fury," which seems like it was influenced by this too.
Profile Image for Prerna.
222 reviews1,322 followers
May 14, 2022
Some nights I feel like I fall asleep in one place and wake up in an entirely different one, as though I'm the only enduring point of focus around which the chaos of this world revolves. Extremely self-obsessed and narcissistic, I know. But on other nights it is as though I inhabit several different beings at once, with claws everywhere and feet nowhere. I am sick of the ephemerality of it all. Can we not simultaneously be stationary, still? With only the moth to watch as it flaps its wings perpetually, being everywhere yet going nowhere, like the tick-tick-tick of a clock. It is only my being that I am familiar with, and mostly not even that. What does it take to feel at home?

Yesterday I was digging in my bag for a pen and found a mechanical pencil that I bought in my hometown which is nearly 2000 kilometres away from where I live now. As I click-click-clicked it, I remembered the putrid humidity and the ceaseless sigh of the waves that I was surrounded by for nearly 25 years. I'd call it nostalgia except that would indicate longing. I long for nothing except intense sensations. I'm a dopamine slut. I'd do anything to constantly feel, feel even agony or ecstasy, I can hardly differentiate between the two anyway. I have no face, I blur through time, day in and day out. But I want everyone and everything to face me entirely. I'd give anything, anything, anything. To be deeply moved; yet irreverent; yet penitent; yet anxious to get it over; yet reluctant to part.

This book gave me all of it - a singular sure being and a mammoth of coalescing faces trapped in a miniscule moment. Everything all at once. I will never get over this. I will never be able to separate it from myself, it is mine now.

There was no past, no future; merely the moment in its ring of light, and our bodies; and the inevitable climax, the ecstasy.
April 17, 2021
Thus when I come to shape here at this table between my hands the story of my life and set it before you as a complete thing, I have to recall things gone far, gone deep, sunk into this life or that and become part of it; dreams, too, things surrounding me, and the inmates, those old half-articulate ghosts who keep up their hauntings by day and night; who turn over in their sleep, who utter their confused cries, who put out their phantom fingers and clutch at me as I try to escape—shadows of people one might have been; unborn selves.
My umpteenth reading of The Waves and it still floors me. There's not a wasted word here: Woolf's attention to rhythm—she was listening to Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Minor, Opus 130 while writing this novel, and Beethoven's nuances are found in her prose at all turns—and the ways in which she questions subjectivity, interpersonal relations, the ways in which we are connected and yet disparate from those around us are on display here more so than in any of her other fictional works.

The last section is sadly not as famous as the last section in Joyce's Ulysses, but it may well be even more gut-wrenchingly brutal in its philosophical underpinnings and the ways in which Woolf engages with poetics to sustain the flow of her inquiries into what it means to be human. On each reading there is something more to be found here, something more to be learned, something to relish and treasure, some keen diamond-edged truth that slices just as much as it illuminates.

A book that can never have an equal, hands down.
Profile Image for Fernando.
680 reviews1,090 followers
September 15, 2020
“Pienso en personas a quienes podría decir cosas: Louis, Neville, Susan, Jinny y Rhoda. Con ellos soy polifacético. Me sacan de la oscuridad. Gracias a Dios, nos reuniremos esta noche. Gracias a Dios, no tendré que estar solo. Cenaremos juntos. Diré adiós a Percival, que se va a la India. Esta noche cenaré con mis amigos. Soy Bernard, soy yo.”

“Las olas” es una novela experimental de esta inolvidable escritora que se llamó Virginia Woolf.
Digo experimental porque lógicamente rompe con las normas de lo estándar en la literatura, principalmente porque apuesta a ser una novela que carece de argumento.
En realidad lo tiene, pero es como un esbozo, un planteo narrativo que se compone de soliloquios, monólogos, de sus seis personajes principales, Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny y Louis que hacen referencia a un séptimo, Percival, aunque este nunca se expresa durante la lectura del libro.
No es la primera vez que nos encontramos con novelas sin trama argumental. Podemos citar otros casos como pueden ser “La caída” de Albert Camus, “El innombrable” de Samuel Beckett y especialmente otra novela altamente experimental y de vanguardia que se llamó “Finnegans Wake”, escrito por el increíble James Joyce.
Para el caso puntual de “Las olas”, Woolf vuelve a poner en práctica un método de narración similar al que utilizó para su otra novela, “El faro”, que consiste también en personajes monologando prácticamente durante todo el libro con menos cantidad de diálogos entre sí.
Los monólogos en esta novela son separados por nueve interludios introducidos por la autora y que aparecen en letras itálicas.
En estos interludios transcurre todo un día, desde que sale el sol y se divisan las primeras olas hasta que éste se pone en el ocaso y las olas comienzan a ocultarse y así, Woolf establece el modo en que cuenta la vida de sus personajes, desde que son jóvenes hasta el final de sus días y es la forma que tiene la autora de darle cohesión y continuidad para que se asemeje a un argumento estructurado.
A su vez, todos los soliloquios de los personajes están escrito en el estilo del “flujo de conciencia” o “monólogo interior” en el que las ideas tal como aparecen en la mente del personaje son volcadas en el libro, recurso que instaurara James Joyce en su “Ulises” y que fuera desarrollada posteriormente por otros autores como William Faulkner en “El ruido y la furia” o Samuel Beckett en “El innombrable”. Existen muchos casos más, pero considero a estos como los más emblemáticos para explicarlos.
Los seis personajes de “Las olas” tienen personalidades bien marcadas y distintas, pero cada una de ellas construye la novela a la par y en conjunto.
Es verdaderamente digno de destacar el altísimo vuelo poético de Virginia Woolf, una escritora que escribe de una manera exquisita e inigualable, y que a su vez nunca deja de homenajear a algunos de sus héroes literarios como William Shakespeare, Lord Byron y Fiódor Dostoievski.
Cabe destacar también el monólogo interior final de Bernard que cierra el libro en las últimas cincuenta páginas y que es equiparable al de Molly Bloom en el final del “Ulises” de Joyce, pero sin el ahogo que propone el del autor irlandés que no utiliza ni puntos seguidos ni comas, acorralando al lector a leerlo hasta el final.
“Hay que romper la belleza todos los días para que siga siendo bella” leemos en un pasaje de “Las olas”.
Creo que no existe mejor frase para explicar cómo es la literatura de esta escritora maravillosa que se llamó Virginia Woolf.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,687 followers
October 2, 2018
"Yes, this is the eternal renewal, the incessant rise and fall and fall and rise again."
- Virginia Woolf, The Waves


I've read several of Woolf's books. I've loved them all: Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Jacob's Room, A Room of One's Own, Orlando. But I think I loved this one the most. I'm not sure. But the book is swelling in me tonight. It makes me travel back to the night when with my wife's grandfather and uncles, as I ritually dressed my wife's father for burial. It makes me think of all those moments in my life that Virginia's words and phrases could make make alive and make poetic. She could catch the fire of life (and death) and could etch its several meanings on a leaf, or on a wave, or in the stars.

The book is experimental, but also rather simple. It is a narrative with six voices (Bernard, Louis, Neville, Jinny, Susan, and Rhoda) with the silent presence of their dead friend Percival. It is a story about narrative, life, growing old, death, friendship. It is a choir of six, singing a song we ALL sing. It is lovely. My wife isn't a fan of Virginia Woolf. She isn't her cup of tea. My wife prefers Toni Morrison. But I, I prefer Virginia Woolf. I don't mind the abstractions. I feel the weight. I float up and down in her prose. I like recognizing T.S Eliot (perhaps in Louis) or E.M Forster (Bernard?) or Lytton Strachey (Neville). I like seeing these men and women as pieces of Virginia Woolf. I love how she folds them into her book. How she folds them into herself.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
859 reviews2,177 followers
March 10, 2014

"The Waves" is arguably the greatest single work of literary Modernism, superior to Woolf’s own "Mrs Dalloway" and "To the Lighthouse" and potentially to Joyce’s "Ulysses".

The first two of these works are temporally much more limited in scope, the last so stylistically diverse that it can’t be said to have a singular integrity (which is not to criticize it; this criterion is quite the opposite of its design and intent).

"The Waves" extends beyond one occasion and encapsulates entire lives, not just of one or two characters, but six ("a six-sided flower, made of six lives") . Although it does so by alternating soliloquies (which initially are hard to relate to), by midway through, they became seamless.

"Each sight is an arabesque scrawled suddenly to illustrate some haphazard and marvel of intimacy...I read the character of each love; how each was different."

Each individual is unique, but also part of an aggregate, a collective, a community, a whole. "Am I all of them? Am I one and distinct? I do not know...we are divided...Yet I cannot find any obstacle separating us. There is no division between me and them."

They talk not only to each other, but about each other. An awareness of the peer group as a whole, of people, of humanity, grows by accretion. "The truth is I am not one of those who find their satisfaction in one person, or in infinity."

Whatever difficulties I encountered at the beginning were far outweighed by the superlative quality of the prose, if that’s the best term to describe it. Superficially, it’s a novel. However, Woolf called it a "playpoem". You could segregate any paragraph into verses and it would read beautifully. You could read any soliloquy aloud and it would sound Shakespearean.

Ultimately, this thing that Woolf created is a "novelplaypoem".

Not only is it written beautifully, it is timed perfectly. It consists of nine segments or acts, separated by sections printed in italics that map the progress of the sun across the course of a day.

It starts before sunrise and ends after the sun has sunk beneath the horizon (sunrise to sunset, like a trilogy of Greek plays performed in one day).

I can only marvel that one author sat in her room and sustained such a consistent and flawless level of creativity. "All is experiment and adventure."

To be truly appreciated, it deserves multiple readings. Like a flower, it is so fulsome and complex, you could inspect and enjoy it multiple times, in multiple ways. "I distinguish too little and too vaguely...[Yet] I am titillated inordinately by some splendor." It is the ultimate "treasury of moments".

"I detect, I perceive. Beneath my eyes opens — a book; I see to the bottom; the heart — I see to the depths. I know what loves are trembling into fire; how jealousy shoots its green flashes hither and thither; how intricately love crosses love; love makes knots; love brutally tears them apart. I have been knotted; I have been torn apart."

To which Woolf adds, with humility but also pride, "I am also a girl, here in this room."

Wave Haiku

Each heart beat crashes,
Like a wave, incessantly,
On the shores of Death.


Patti Smith - A Reading from Virginia Woolf's "The Waves"


Patti Smith - "Wave"


A Reading by Virginia Woolf



Seven families reside in Percival's street. (Photo taken on my walk this morning.)

Kevin Pietersen’s First Innings, The Gabba, Brisbane, 2013 – 2014 Cricket Test Match Series
[As told by Virginia Woolf]

I hate darkness and sleep and night, and lie longing for the day to come. I long that the week of a Test Match should be all one day without divisions. When I wake early - and the birds wake me - I lie and watch the brass handles on the cupboard grow clear; then the basin; then the towel-horse. As each thing in the bedroom grows clear, my heart beats quicker. I feel my body harden, and become pink, yellow, brown. My hands pass over my legs and body. I feel its slopes, its thinness, its muscularity.

I get out of my hotel bed. Here is another day, here is another day, I cry, as my feet touch the floor. It may be a bruised day, an imperfect day. As was yesterday. But I will do my best.

Today we bat second, me at second drop. I will let the others get out before me. When it is my turn, I will sit still one moment before I emerge into that chaos, that tumult. I will not anticipate what is to come.

Then, unexpectedly, a wicket falls and we are two out. It’s my turn to bat. I am ready, more ready than I’ve ever been. I will knock. I will enter. I will perform. I will excel.

I hear the roar of the hostile mob as I step out from the balcony. Now I dry my hands, vigorously, so that neither umpire nor commentator can suspect that I am waving my fist at the infuriated mob that is the Gabba crowd. "I am your Emperor, people." My attitude is one of defiance. I am fearless. I will surely conquer.

The day has already been full of ignominies and triumphs concealed from fear of laughter. I am often scolded. I am often in disgrace for idleness, for laughing; but even as Alastair Cook grumbles at my feather-headed carelessness, when I’m in the centre, I am here to catch sight of something moving - the red kookaburra ball – and smash it.

In the middle of the wicket, I am now a boy only with a colonial accent holding my willow with my knuckles against Mitchell Johnson’s stitched leather ball.

The moustchioed Johnson starts his run-up. Feet shuffle perpetually. I gather my strength and raise my bat, then punch it back down on the wicket. I feel the intensity of my power. To whom shall I give all that now flows through me, from my warm, my porous body? Why? Mitchell Johnson, of course! Now my body thaws; I am unsealed, I am incandescent. Then suddenly descends upon me the obscure, the mystic sense of adoration, of completeness that triumphs over chaos. Nobody sees my poised and intent figure as I stand upright at the wicket. They see only a colonial boy. Nobody guesses the need I have to offer my being to one god, the English batting god; so that Aussie bowlers might perish, and disappear. My blade descends; the Aussie vision broken.

These are the things that forever interrupt the process upon which I am eternally engaged of finding some perfect shot that fits this very moment exactly. Now the energy flows through my body. The stream pours in a deep tide fertilizing, opening the shut, forcing the tight-folded, flooding free. Willow contacts leather. Two of my strokes race to the boundary. I’m feeling good. But I mis-hit one of Johnson’s balls and it rockets skyward. A man, a fielder positions himself beneath it. There is some check in the flow of my being; a deep stream presses on some obstacle; it jerks; it tugs; some knot in the centre resists. I am caught out! I tremble, I cry. Oh, this is pain, this is anguish! I faint, I fail.

I step away from the platform, grasping tightly all that I possess - my one and only trusted bat. As I reach the edge of the oval, a huge uproar is in my ears. It sounds and resounds, under this southern sky like the surge of a sea. My sense of self almost perishes; my contempt. I become drawn in, tossed down, thrown sky-high.

Once mighty England is cast down on the platform by the Aussies. We are whirled asunder. We will surely lose the Ashes, if we don’t lift our game. It’s up to me. Against you Aussies, I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding. I still live to take you on. I must return a hero. I must. I shall.

The Mexican waves continue around the Gabba forum, until they break on the shore of Antipodean cricket enthusiasm. Someone in the crowd calls out, "Wanker!" Hah! Don't they respect class in Brisbane? Don't they know excellence when they see it?



An Imperial Kevin Pietersen, padded up and raring to go

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

"I, who speak with an Australian accent, whose father [was] a banker in Brisbane, do not fear her as I fear the others."

Louis in "The Waves"

Profile Image for Martyna Antonina.
266 reviews82 followers
April 1, 2023
"Fal" nie trzeba rozumieć w całej symbiozie języka. "Fale" się odczuwa, z "Falami" rozpręża się własną wrażliwość na stronach książki po to, żeby doświadczyć pewnego naddoznania literackiego.
Zabieg rozszczepienia narracji na sześć postaci i sześć mikronarracji nadaje tej historii niewerbalnego wymiaru rozumienia osobowości - bohaterowie przez całą książkę bezpośrednio ze sobą nie rozmawiają.
Kocham i nienawidzę tej powieści Woolf za to, co ze mną (i dla mnie, i we mnie) zrobiła i czego prawdopodobnie nie zrobi już nigdy żadna inna powieść.
Chciałabym potrafić o niej pisać tak, jak ją w sobie czuję - ale niestety nie potrafię pisać tam, gdzie kończą się słowa.

pierwsze czytanie: 5☆
drugie czytanie: 5☆
Profile Image for Yu.
84 reviews118 followers
August 8, 2018
The absolute reign of flowing chaos

Jinny the glamourous Aphrodite; Susan the maternal nurturer; Rhoda the lesbian nymph; Bernard the egoless poet; Louis the class-conscious outsider; Neville the hypersensitive conservative; Percival the masculine god.

Percival's accidental death symbolizes the destruction of the patriarchal order and forces the six to search for new transcendental meanings to fill the empty spot. But Jinny cannot escape the transience of physical beauty; Susan gapes always for escaped thing; Rhoda fears still Percival's shadow that is her infirmity; Neville never changes; Louis suffers forever the humiliation; Bernard seeks for truth beyond egoistic visions and mere semblance, but only finds the waves that protect, separate, reduce, and kill.

"How much better is silence; the coffee-cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee-cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. I would willingly give all my money that you should not disturb me but let me sit on and on, silent, alone." Phrases are false. Companionships undo. Life is too familiar to cast any shade. There is no transcendental meaning in this absolute reign of flowing chaos, only the assurance of violent deaths as the waves broke on the shore.
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